SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION I TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIP : Newport Harbor Discovers Positive Side to Loss in Final

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The outcome of Tuesday's Southern Section Division I girls' tennis final between Newport Harbor and Palos Verdes Peninsula was decided before the season began. The only remaining questions were: how and by how much would Newport Harbor lose?

Newport Harbor Coach Charlie Bleiker had his questions answered when Peninsula's players stepped off the bus at the Claremont Club.

"Once I saw Janet Lee get off the bus I knew we were in trouble," Bleiker said. "I'd hoped their best were back at (National Junior Indoors) and they were taking us for granted."

The appearance of Lee and Nicole London, Peninsula's two best singles players, convinced Bleiker to try and gain some respect, rather than risk the possibility of being humiliated again.

Bleiker's strategy of teaming his best two singles players worked. Sarah Hawkins and Mara Colaizzi won all three of their doubles sets, giving Newport Harbor its only points in a 15-3 loss to Peninsula, which won its third consecutive section title.

"It's sort of terrible to play to lose and look good," Bleiker said. "But as a coach, I try to get everything I can. It doesn't change the overall result, but it gives us more pride."

And a little respect. Earlier this season, Peninsula had embarrassed Newport Harbor, 17-1.

"We didn't want to lose in the finals, 18-0 or 17-1," Hawkins said. "That's not too much fun after working so hard to get here."

Lee, who recently announced she will be turning pro next year, said she understood Newport Harbor's plight.

"I would have probably done the same thing if I were them," said Lee, who lost one game in three sets. "We already beat them 17-1."

However, Peninsula (24-0) wasn't exactly feeling sorry for Newport Harbor (22-3).

"My goal was to get one game off of Janet Lee and I did it," Newport Harbor freshman Katie Canright said. "I saw the look on Lee's face and she wasn't very happy."

Neither were the three doubles teams who lost to Colaizzi and Hawkins.

"I think they were surprised," Colaizzi said. "I don't think they had any idea they were going to lose, and I could tell they didn't like it."

Colaizzi and Hawkins, who have advanced into the round of 16 in the section individual doubles tournament, won their sets, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2.

"This will give them a good seed in the doubles draw and I really think they're a good bet to win," Bleiker said.

Hawkins and Colaizzi's toughest competition will probably come from London and Amber Basica. Basica lost a total of eight games at No. 3 singles and recently signed a letter of intent to play at Rice.

Nearly every Peninsula player will either attend college on a tennis scholarship or play as a nationally ranked junior--London recently signed with USC. So Bleiker said he had no second thoughts about his decision to concede the match before it began.

"We didn't have any delusions that we were going to win this match," he said. "This is an impossible dream."

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